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DNA discovery for breast cancer biomarker

A new biomarker in the blood could help to identify women at an increased risk of breast cancer, a new “ground-breaking” study suggests.

Lower than normal DNA methylation levels, in blood cells have been linked to an increased risk of developing the disease.

DNA methylation is the process by which methyl groups are added to DNA, changing the function of the DNA to suppress gene transcription. 

The researchers monitored 2,600 women and took blood samples, in a 9-year international study led by Imperial College London.

Dr Richard Berks, senior research communications officer at Breast Cancer Now, said: “Further research will now be required to understand why this loss of methylation might increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, the findings of which could provide crucial insight into how best cancer develops and how to prevent it.”

The researchers hope that in the future women with a known increased risk of developing the disease could be given a blood test to assess and monitor methylation levels, to understand their risk and inform treatment decisions.